The Scientific Indian

Inhuman India

Anand Giridharadas (his blog) writes at IHT:

many of the people who are making the new India new – from the stockbrokers to the bedecked socialites – are responsible for preserving a certain gloomy element of the Indian past: a tendency to treat the hired help like chattel, to taunt and humiliate and condescend to them, to behave as though some humans were born to serve and others to be served.

“Indians are perhaps the world’s most undemocratic people, living in the world’s largest and most plural democracy,” as Sudhir Kakar and Katharina Kakar, two well-known scholars of Indian culture, put it in a recent book, “The Indians: Portrait of a People.”

It is possible to argue that this will be case with any society with steep economic disparity and a colossal population problem. But, in India the culture of servility – nurtured and supported by the caste system and the ruling class: petty fiefdoms, British, and now bureaucratic Babus – play a big part in how we treat our fellow men and women.


  1. #1 arby
    August 12, 2008

    I’m surprised there have been no comments so far. I have nothing to add, but hoped someone else would. I recently had a small discussion of this topic with a teacher friend in China, prompted by an article by an Indian woman living in China. She wrote about the difference in treatment of lower class workers in China and India, and mentioned the workers who remove the “night soil” from privys. They are provided with gloves in China, and treated with dignity and respect, very different than the treatment they receive in India. My teacher friend responded that she has some young Indians in her school/day care, and the mothers treat her like dirt, and generally act as if the rules don’t apply to them. I wonder if the Indian children are boys, somehow I can’t imagine the mothers being so doting with their girl children. rb

  2. #2 selva
    August 13, 2008

    arby, thanks for the note on China. I was, in fact, wondering if it was like this in China when I posted the above. It’s not and that’s cause for cheer. We (in India) have an example to follow.

  3. #3 Belle
    August 14, 2008

    I am the ‘friend’ in China that RB mentioned. Oddly enough, most of the Indian children at the center I work at are girls. The mothers are pretty much impossible to please. Maybe just as odd, the mothers of the 2 Indian boys are easier to get along with and tend to be more reasonable.

    The mothers of the girls refuse to follow our center rule of no food or drink in the classrooms. No matter how many times we ask them to follow this rule, they ignore us. They also insist on having classes arranged for them JUST for their children and any other children that they choose to be in the class. Then they show up late and often do not even want to adhere to the policy of at least one adult per child in the class.

    In actuality, RB made a tiny mistake. I work in an erly childhood development center where we have play, music and art classes…but we are certainly not a day care at all. The Indian mothers have had this explained to them many times, yet they still try to get the office workers to watch their children for them. One of the mothers is in the habit of just leaving the classroom in the middle of the class and wandering about the center, leaving the instructor to watch over her child…whioch is impossible to do while instructing a class of 10 or more children and their parents.

    As for the ‘cleaning’ workrs in China, they seem to be pretty well-respected. They are often the best people to ask directions from. But it is not all sweet and nice here.

    It appears that a good deal of people in China still have a propensity for treating people in the service industry like crap. Ordering them about and yelling at them and just generally treating them badly. Even though people here do not make anything in tips, and often do not make much in the way of a monthly salary, they still have to treat their customers well…even if they are being treated badly.

  4. #4 Ariana
    August 18, 2009

    I came across this post randomly and found it interesing. I respect and have compassion for all people, difference is not offending. Nevertheless, I find that even here in Canada many Indian’s tend to look down on others, and very obviously. They act like they are better, control their childrens lives obsessively, and claim to be humble. I have friends that are Indian, of course they do not fit this discription. But Im not sure why so many of them do. I suppose this must be the result of deeply engraved cultural outlooks.
    Hierarchy and the feelings developed under the guise of authority can be dangerous when coupled with a long tradition of master and slave.

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